This is the FHI quarterly update for January to March 2020. It was an exceptional quarter due to the challenges and restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We implemented enhanced precautions a little while before the rest of the University and the UK as a whole kicked into action. We’re currently operating entirely online, with everybody working from home.


Toby Ord published his new book The Precipice – Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. The book explores the science behind the risks we face and puts them in the context of the greater story of humanity: showing how ending these risks is among the most pressing moral issues of our time. And it points the way forward, to the actions and strategies we can take today to safeguard humanity’s future.

Toby also wrote an article for The Guardian newspaper about Why we need worst-case thinking to prevent pandemics.

Anders Sandberg continued work towards his Grand Futures book, presenting a series of seminars that will be available on the FHI YouTube channel in the coming weeks.

Centre for the Governance of AI

Papers published during the quarter:

The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Goodby Cullen O’Keefe, Peter Cihon, Ben Garfinkel, Carrick Flynn, Jade Leung, and Allan Dafoe.  By voluntarily adopting the Windfall Clause, firms would bindingly agree to donate a meaningful portion of their profits if they earn a historically unprecedented economic windfall from the development of advanced AI.

Five papers were presented at the AAAI / ACM AI Ethics and Society Conference in New York in February:

Technical AI Safety

Progress this quarter:
Currently, Stuart Armstrong is continuing to work on his research agenda. Michael Cohen is working on general RL, while Ryan Carey and Chris van Merwijk are further developing the causal theory of incentives.


Biosecurity has continued its work on broader strategy alongside more direct policy work, both on biological risks in general and COVID-19 in particular.

Researchers from the team were closely involved in COVID-19 related work, such as establishing the COVID-19 diagnostic testing in the UK community study that will conduct testing in Oxford initially, to analyse and report effectiveness.

FHI staff has been asked to give advice at the highest level of government in the UK and the Czech Republic.

Research Scholars Programme

RSP was delighted to welcome new scholars Jennifer Lin, Jacob, Daniel and Ben this quarter. Nora joined the RSP organising team on a temporary basis. 

Eliana and Rose launched applications for FHI’s first Summer Research Fellowship. FHI is also in the process of selecting a small number of DPhil scholars.

Ashwin mentored at a CASPAR workshop, Carolyn taught a course on AI ethics and society, and Eliana co-launched the Applied Category Theory Adjoint School.

Jan participated in the AI Safety Research Programme and is advising on the governmental and industry response to Covid-19 in Czechia. He and a group of other RSPers and researchers have also launched

Carina presented at AAAI/AIES, spoke to the Mexican Senate on AI Ethics and advised on Mexico’s national AI strategy.

Cassidy has been doing work with the UK Government, and her COVID-19 community diagnostic study is launching this week.

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